The correlation between areas of open water in ice-covered seas and increased biological productivity has been noted for some time. To date, most attention has been focused on larger polynyas, such as the Northeast Water and the Northwater. Although spectacular in their own right, these large polynyas represent only part of a vitally important continuum of biological productivity that varies significantly between geographic areas and ice habitats, that includes the multi-year pack of the polar ocean and small localized polynyas in annual ice. Surveys of the distribution and abundance of ringed seals in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago have shown differences in density that are correlated with the presence or absence of polynyas. There is also significant variation in the biological productivity of polynya areas of the Canadian High Arctic Archipelago and northern Greenland, all of which receive inflow from the polar basin. Long-term studies of polar bears and ringed seals in western Hudson Bay and the eastern Beaufort Sea show significant but dissimilar patterns of change in condition and reproductive rates between the two regions and suggest that fundamentally different climatic or oceanographic processes may be involved. Projections of climate models suggest that, if warming occurs, then the extent of ice cover in Hudson Bay may be among the first things affected. Long-term studies of polar bears and ringed seals in the eastern Beaufort Sea and Hudson Bay would suggest these two species to be suitable indicators of significant climatic or oceanographic changes in the marine ecosystem.